I loved this picture. Marel, Veronika and Sasha were introduced to me today when I attended the service at Seda, because they are soon to be enrolled as junior soldiers in the Salvation Army. That will be an important event for them and a celebration for Seda.During the service two of them came out to the front and recited Bible verses they had learnt and had to explain their meaning. One of the verses was perhaps the most well-known in the Bible from St John’s Gospel chapter 3 verse 16. Then another young man came and read the Bible reading he had chosen which was Psalm 23.
We sang together, or rather, they sang. I can just about manage to read and sing in Latvian, but most of the songs for this Russian-speaking congregation were in Russian, so I couldn’t even read the songs much less sing them! It was, though, just lovely to be there and pick up the atmosphere of joy and worship in this little village. I discovered that Sergejs, the Salvation Army officer who works there with his wife, Aizan, is no mean guitar player. In addition to the singing, two girls, Natasha and Nastja played the tambourine, very professionally, I might add.
As soon as the meeting ended the chairs were moved to the side and Nastja (not the tambourine-playing one) and her dancers entertained us to a dance. after that the games came out, the soup was served, and the children started to spread around the place, playing games, playing on the computers and drawing and colouring in pictures. There seemed to be hundreds of them! Well, I suppose I exaggerate just a bit, but there might well have been 20 or 30 of them, all enjoying being together at the Salvation Army. What is really quite amazing about this is that Aizan, aforementioned officer, was very ambivalent at one time about her ability to work with children. You should see her, they just obviously love her to bits – and she clearly loves them too!
I did feel slightly guilty that I and Arturs, the Russian-speaking cadet who had come to translate for me, were ushered into a room spread with goodies and were lavishly entertained with food cooked by Tonja, who at 78 years of age has not lost any of her culinary skills. She served me with the first plate of Borscht I have ever tasted, and very good it was too. Then to round it off Anja came in with a lovely chocolate cake which her mother had made for the occasion. Oh, and in between the Borscht and the cake there was chicken, potatoes and salad!
If you are a praying person, pray for Sergejs and Aizan. They love their work, but Seda is a very tough environment in which to work. Pray too for the children they work with. Against a background of hopelessness and a lot of alcoholism and crime, Sergejs and Aizan are trying to demonstrate and communicate the love and compassion of Jesus.